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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Deeper Dish with Matthew Lombardo

The evening of March 14, 2010, should be quite memorable for Matthew Lombardo, whose first Broadway play, Looped - starring Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead - will have its opening night. I'm excited for the guy, who has already found success as a writer with Tea at Five, his previous bio-play about Katharine Hepburn, which had an Off-Broadway run in 2003 and continues to tour the country. He also wrote for the daytime soap opera, Another World, for which he received a 1993 Writer's Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement. And now Matt is getting Looped with Rhoda Morgenstern as Tallulah - sounds like fun to me.

Directed by Rob Ruggiero, the comedy takes place in 1965 when an inebriated Bankhead arrives at a sound studio to rerecord (or 'loop') one line of dialogue for her last movie, Die! Die! My Darling! (a British thriller that also starred Stefanie Powers and Donald Sutherland). When the intoxicated actress is unable to loop the line properly, a hilarious showdown ensues between her and an uptight film editor (played by Brian Hutchison). Since Looped is currently in rehearsals for its first preview on February 19, I am so happy that Matt was able to take some time from his busy schedule to be here on the Dish to discuss his career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's begin with Looped. What three words best describe how it feels to have your first Broadway play?
Humbled. Grateful. Rewarded.

What inspired you to write about Tallulah Bankhead? And what made you decide to set the play in 1965 at the time of her last film?
Someone mentioned if I had ever thought of writing a play about Tallulah Bankhead. My response was immediate and negative. I mean, having just spent the last few years of my life reconstructing Hepburn with Tea at Five, the last thing I wanted to do was write another play about yet another famous actress. But I was rather intrigued why the question had been posed. It was soon explained that there evidently was this 1965 audiotape floating around of Tallulah Bankhead in a looping session for the film, Die! Die! My Darling!

Well, my curiosity was soon piqued. And after listening to that recording, and despite my early objections, I was simultaneously catapulted into hysteria and overcome with melancholy – for hearing the laughter and pain of a woman who had lived such an outrageous life and self-indulgent existence of excess, had me questioning my own life as well. And it was at that moment I soon began creating the very first draft of Looped.

What was the most interesting thing that you learned about Ms. Bankhead that you previously didn’t know?
That she was a nudist. There is this great story about how Tallulah (later in life) had thrown a party at her home one night. Well, halfway through the evening, she went upstairs, took off her dress and came back down totally naked. A guest seated on the couch looked up at her and said, "Tallulah, dear - you have so many pretty frocks. Why come down in this old wrinkled one?" Classic.

What's your favorite Tallulah quote?
"The less I behave like Whistler's mother the night before, the more I look like her the morning after."

You've written about Katharine Hepburn and Tallulah Bankhead – do you have an actress in mind for your next play?
The new play I just completed is actually a drama with three fictional characters (imagine that - no divas!). But the one I am working on now is indeed about someone famous. And no, I can't tell you who it is about.

How did you end up as a writer on the daytime soap opera, Another World?
An executive from Proctor and Gamble came to see my first play, Guilty Innocence, at the Actor’s Playhouse in NYC and asked if I would be interested in entering their Writer Development Program (which is kind of like a Miss America contest for scribes). I agreed. And so for six weeks about a dozen of us had to learn how to write for daytime drama. When the course was over, I won the tiara and was given a contract on Another World. How was that experience? Writing 80 pages of dialogue a week is absolutely exhausting. After cranking out two years of episodes for that show, I would go to bed each night praying I would be fired. My prayers were eventually answered.

Did you have a favorite Another World character that you enjoyed writing for?
Yes. Felicia Gallant (born Fanny Grady) who was a fictional romance novelist in Bay City modeled after Jacqueline Susann. My claim to fame was writing a good chunk of dialogue during Felicia's alcoholism storyline. In fact, actress Linda Dano (who played Felicia) submitted the notorious I-Don’t-Know-How-Many-Times-I-Have-To-Tell-You-I-Don’t-Have-A-Drinking-Problem scene which I wrote for Emmy consideration in 1993. Linda won the Emmy. I didn't.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. I was keeping a diary by the time I was 12. Good thing it had a lock on it.

In high school I was:

My favorite comfort food is:
Dirty Girl Nachos

The last good book I read was:
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:
Super Friends - which was an animated television series about a team of superheroes. I had the biggest crush on Aquaman from 1973-1986 (and yes, I was 22 when my infatuation ended).

Today I never miss a television episode of:
Judge Judy ("Madam. Madam. Put your hand down I am speaking!")

If I could go back in time and see any Broadway show, I would see:
Moose Murders, which opened and closed on February 22, 1983. But I would want to see it with Eve Arden who dropped out during previews (Holland Taylor replaced her).

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:
The overture from Gypsy over and over and...

Five movies that I think everyone should be required to watch are:
1. The Wizard of Oz
2. Schindler’s List
3. The Sound of Music
4. Ordinary People
5. The Pizza Boy (He Delivers!)

If I could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following three people:
Saint Augustine. Coco Chanel. And Paul Lynde.

What's next for Matthew Lombardo – after Looped opens?
I would love to go on a cruise but without any other people on the ship.

Thank you, Matt, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. For further information on Looped, go to, and to purchase tickets, call (212) 239-6200/(800) 545-2559 or visit the Lyceum Theatre box office (149 W. 45th Street). You can also become a Facebook fan of Looped, follow the show on Twitter, and watch more videos on its YouTube Channel.


behrmark said...

Great interview! I, too, had a crush on Aquaman.

Steven Anthony said...

Anything with Valerie has me from the get this, thanx for sharing;)

Michael Rivers said...

I want to see this so bad. It sounds wonderful!